Assessment-based learning, using online learning platforms, using a buddy system, microlearning, using data analysis, and using real-world incentives are six innovative sales training methods that ensure maximum participation of sales representatives in sales training programs. These methods are described below in detail.
Innovative Sales Training Methods
1) Assessment-based Learning
- Most sales companies only train their sales representatives and then hope that they are ready for the field. Such an approach runs the risk of the sales representatives making a mess of their sales pitches in front of their potential buyers, costing the company deals, hurting seller confidence and the company’s brand reputation, and wasting time for all parties.
- According to Jim Ninivaggi, Chief Readiness Officer of Brainshark, sales training leaders/managers must shift their mindset from mere learning consumption to assessment of their sales representatives.
- When sales representatives obtain the realization that their sales training would involve assessment of their learning and mastery of the sales pitch, sales training leaders/managers will get a better commitment and improved representative effectiveness.
- Sales training assessments are innovative as they replace the traditional model of learning consumption. They can be implemented in the following ways:
- Sales training managers should also assess the strengths and weaknesses of their sales teams to produce the best possible result.
2) Using Online Learning Platforms
- Technology and flexible work arrangements are changing the nature of work across the globe. Companies are adopting online learning platforms to make their employees aware of new products, company policies, or procedures.
- Sales representatives are often spread across different cities, states, and even countries to cater to new customers and serve different markets.
- Online learning platforms are innovative since traditional, in-person sales training methods are expensive to execute, challenging to coordinate, and require taking valuable customer-facing time away from sales representatives for training.
- Online learning and training via the cloud eliminates several drawbacks of traditional sales training by providing sales representatives with access anywhere and anytime.
- Online learning courses come in several engaging formats that improve sales engagement, lead to cost reductions and improved sales productivity, and provides attractive perks for the best sales performers. Sales representatives can educate themselves wherever they are present and clarify their doubts and questions using these online learning platforms.
- Online learning can take different forms like instructor-led classes and massive open online courses (MOOCs). These platforms are especially useful for teaching several new concepts quickly, such as during training on a new system or sales representative onboarding.
- MulTra GmbH is one such online learning platform that provides sales training leaders with the opportunity to create an A-to-Z learning experience for all members of the sales team using web-based training, augmented reality apps, and interactive videos.
3) Using a Buddy System
- An innovative method of sales training is creating a buddy system in which new or junior sales team members are paired with senior sales representatives.
- The buddy system has two inherent advantages. The first advantage is that new or junior team members can learn the necessary skills needed to succeed in their jobs and adopt the best sales practices by asking questions from the senior team members and watching them perform.
- The second advantage is that the senior team members can grow their managerial and mentoring skills by helping their junior colleagues to succeed in a challenging environment.
- Peter Trebek, CEO of GoTranscript, believes that the buddy system encourages learning and identifying good and bad habits. There is a great chance that the senior sales team member has already asked the same questions that a new or junior colleague has and can answer them easily from experience, thus creating a more engaged work environment.
- Microlearning is a practice of offering small chunks of always-accessible and individualized training content to employees. Key concepts are reinforced, and employee development is driven through this learning method.
- Microlearning is often used to teach one concept at a time. It is convenient and searchable so that the employees can easily find information on the topic whenever they want. Microlearning may incorporate several types of content like quizzes, games, videos, simulations, and audio clips, among others.
- With attention spans getting shorter every day, microlearning has emerged as an effective and innovative sales training method. Research has shown that during a lecture of one hour, students are completely focused during a window ranging from 10 to 18 minutes.
- Research has also shown that it is easier to retain information when it is presented over a longer period of time in comparison to it being presented all at once.
- Microlearning in sales training helps sales team members to retain more training information over a longer period of time, fit into their busy schedules, identify gaps in their knowledge, track their progress, improve training completion rates, and gain a competitive advantage in the market.
5) Using Data Analysis
- The best sales training methods dictate that data analysis should be a big part of inbound sales training. The sales team should always reflect on their performance using data.
- Every time sales representatives make calls, sales training managers should monitor data like the duration of the calls, the number of people called, the percentage of leads that turned into sales, the percentage of leads that want more information, and the kind of questions that people are asking most often, among others.
- Using the above data analysis, sales training managers should establish KPIs and metrics and measure the performance of the sales representatives against these parameters. If there is a significant gap, they should take immediate corrective action to bridge the gap between the results and the benchmarks.
- With the advent of big data that has become an essential part of business, data analysis is an innovative sales training method to improve the performance of the sales team.
- The advantage of data analysis is that it enables the sales department to find the most effective ways of making its time and money investment worthwhile. Data analysis helps sales training managers to evolve the sales strategy besides helping the sales team to succeed and the company to grow.
- ToutApp is one such data analysis platform that helps sales training managers by providing valuable insights on every stage of the sales cycle and helps them optimize their sales strategies.
6) Using Real-world Incentives
- Since sales representatives are goal-driven and competitive people, an innovative sales training method to promote the development of the sales representatives is using real-world incentives to add motivational fuel to the competitive fire.
- However, there are a few guidelines to ensure that such an approach yields the desired results. The first guideline is ensuring that the incentives are desirable. Most sales companies make the mistake of assuming that sales representatives will be motivated by company-branded giveaway items such as sports bottles and pens. However, companies should take the time to evaluate the motivations of individual members in their sales teams. Incentives like gift cards or concert tickets awarded to sales representatives after completing challenging modules in their sales training program often motivate them more.
- A second guideline is ensuring that the incentives are achievable. Near impossible targets like achieving 100% on all training quizzes in a month will discourage sales representatives from performing at their highest. The requirements need to be challenging but achievable. One method of ensuring full participation in sales training programs is combining achievable incentives with near-impossible ones.
- The third guideline is getting inputs of the desired rewards directly from the sales representatives. To ensure the best participation in sales training programs, companies can directly ask sales representatives regarding their choice of rewards. This can take the form of a questionnaire with a list of rewards, such as gift cards, coupons, cash prizes, or a charity donation.
- The fourth and last guideline is making sure that the rewards from performing well in sales training programs are delivered to sales representatives immediately. When sales representatives see that their training incentives are delivered as promised, and their performances are rewarded, the motivation to perform even better goes up.
Case Studies of Companies That Have Used Innovative Sales Training Methods
Various companies have hired external sales training coaches and/or agencies to deliver innovative sales training to their sales teams to deliver sales growth. Four such companies whose successful case studies have been discussed below are iProspect, American Express, Harry Fox Agency, and Intertape Polymer Group. iProspect hired Richardson Sales Performance that used its custom online platform for providing training and assessment. American Express and Harry Fox Agency hired the prominent sales training coach Stephen Giglio who created custom sales training modules and employed techniques like videotaping and peer critiquing. Intertape Polymer Group hired microlearning training expert q.MINDshare who delivered weekly microlearning training and review sessions.
- The digital marketing performance agency iProspect wanted to reach out to its customers by understanding their business challenges and providing effective solutions in an increasingly competitive market.
- The company had created a new department that focused exclusively on Client Services. iProspect wanted to create a flexible training program for the Client Services team that would increase the sales skills of the team members. This development would enable them to add value to customers, increase organic product growth, increase revenue, and retain existing business.
- For achieving the goal, iProspect hired Richardson Sales Performance. Richardson introduced a blended training program that was scalable, agile, and in line with its customized design.
- The program was conducted on Richardson Accelerate, a customized online platform developed by Richardson that enabled the Client Services team to learn on-demand across both mobile and desktop.
- Salespersons enrolled in the program learned key sales skills like Six Critical Skills and Consultative Selling Skills in instructor-led classes. Sales training managers learned Developmental Sales Coaching. They also implemented their learning in customized role-plays that were related to iProspect’s business.
- Richardson assessed the learning of the participants through quizzes, video scenarios, and competitive leaderboards. Through its mobile app QuickCheck, Richardson gauged the understanding of the participants in the program by asking them two questions every other day.
- The training program proved to be a huge success. The innovative training methods enabled iProspect to gain a 22X ROI. Its participants gained a 17% overall increase in consultative skills knowledge.
2) American Express
- American Express had challenged its sales team to secure the signatures of the top 100 companies that were not accepting the American Express credit card as a medium of payment. Several attempts made by American Express to secure the signatures of these big companies had already failed.
- To ensure the goal was achieved, American Express hired the services of renowned leadership development and sales training coach Stephen Giglio.
- Stephen Giglio found that American Express had several new salespersons in its sales team who were not familiar with the art of selling. Among other sales training tactics, Mr. Giglio coached the sales team the mechanics of creating stories based on the customers’ needs that would align with American Express’ core value proposition. Mr. Giglio also helped the team to define this core value proposition clearly.
- The innovative sales training method delivered rich results as the sales team of American Express was successful in obtaining the signatures of all 100 companies. American Express hired the services of Stephen Giglio several times in the future based on this success.
3) Harry Fox Agency
- Harry Fox Agency, the major music licensing agent for US-based music publishers, wanted to have multiple revenue streams. To align with the changes in the music industry, the company wanted to provide sales training firstly to its key personnel and then to the whole company.
- The company faced a challenge in the form of creating and communicating its value proposition that would appeal to both their current and potential future clients.
- Harry Fox Agency hired the services of Stephen Giglio to overcome this challenge and help address the directional shift taken by the company.
- He worked with the company’s executive team, created key messages, and storyboarded the company’s core values. The key message points were reduced to five key elements. Stephen worked on creating a presentation for the company’s sales team that highlighted publisher affiliation and new business development.
- Mr. Giglio used videotaping and peer critiquing techniques during the sales training sessions, which focused on effective listening, asking the right questions for understanding, and effective presentation delivery. He increased the confidence of the salespersons in the team by using methods like direct feedback, humor, and insights.
- According to Michele Olton, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Administration at Harry Fox Agency, the innovative training methods employed by Stephen Giglio helped Harry Fox Agency create a foundational basis for all its future sales calls. The sales team learned from the training and put it to correct use.
4) Intertape Polymer Group
- Packaging industry major Intertape Polymer Group (IPG) hired the services of microlearning training expert q.MINDshare to make a significant improvement in its sales playbook. To ensure that sales representatives consistently utilized the playbook, q.MINDshare developed a weekly reinforcement strategy.
- Every Wednesday, q.MINDshare delivered a 5-minute weekly review session to the sales team of IPG. These sessions included videos, tips, and interactive questions to ensure the full participation of each member of IPG’s sales team.
- Sometimes the questions focused on the correct use of the sales playbook that was built using sales enablement software developed by SAVO. At other times, the questions were related to various markets, specific product knowledge, important changes, and use cases.
- Every mini-test included links to relevant playbook resources so that sales representatives could have an idea of the tools they would use for sales calls. Incorrect answers from sales representatives led to further training and clarification from q.MINDshare. Every correct answer was recorded and communicated to IPG so that the company could get feedback on the learning development of the sales representatives. q.MINDshare also customized future review sessions according to the training needs of each sales representative.
- The weekly microlearning methodology used by q.MINDshare led to greater product knowledge and a better understanding of SAVO’s resources among the sales representatives in IPG’s sales team. This training method led to a jump in the baseline understanding of the playbook strategy and products from less than 60% to 96%.